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Dating in middle school leads to higher dropout, drug-use rates, study suggests

Published: Wednesday, March 20 2013 2:11 p.m. MDT

Dating during middle school may be detrimental to a teen's development, according to a new study by the University of Georgia.

Keith Johnson, Deseret News archives

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Dating during middle school may be detrimental to a teen's development, according to a new study by the University of Georgia.

"Students who date in middle school have significantly worse study skills, are four times more likely to drop out of school and report twice as much alcohol, tobacco and marijuana use than their single classmates, according to new research from the University of Georgia.

"'Romantic relationships are a hallmark of adolescence, but very few studies have examined how adolescents differ in the development of these relationships," said Pamela Orpinas, study author and professor in the College of Public Health and head of the Department of Health Promotion and Behavior.

"Orpinas followed a group of 624 students over a seven-year period from sixth to 12th grade. Each year, the group completed a survey indicating whether they had dated and reported the frequency of different behaviors, including the use of drugs and alcohol. Their teachers completed questionnaires about the students' academic efforts. The Healthy Teens Longitudinal Study included schools from six school districts in northeast Georgia. Investigators used two indicators of students' school success: high school dropout rates and yearly teacher-rated study skills. The results of the study were recently published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence.

"'In our study, we found four distinct trajectories,' Orpinas said. 'Some students never or hardly ever reported dating from middle to high school, and these students had consistently the best study skills according to their teachers. Other students dated infrequently in middle school but increased the frequency of dating in high school. We also saw a large number of students who reported dating since sixth grade."

Read more about Preteen dating on Science Daily.

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